What a delight! What I mainly wanted to know was, would that same "Fuck you, I'm Amy Sherman-Palladino and I'm calling my show Bunheads" attitude carry through the show itself, and the answer is yes. Yes, it is defiantly itself, and yes, it is fantastical in a lot of ways. Yes, the people are small-town crazy and everybody eats carbs and nobody gets fat. I will try to limit references to Gilmore Girls to a minimum, moving forward, because how many times can you make that joke, but for the purposes of this one recaplet I will say:
The things you loved (and some things you probably didn't remember you loved) are very much present. The strummy la-las are in effect, as is the nonstop torrent of words pouring out of everybody all the time: That stylized, literate ASP palaver that's like watching a grad student on Ritalin drink an entire punchbowl. Brassy ladies and lovably cartoonish neurotics cover every surface. Kelly Bishop is unnerving and delightful and intense, and this Sutton Foster is this incredibly versatile actor that is amazing to watch. It scoots right up to a PG-13 kind of vulgarity, but then stays idling at just-inappropriate and cheeky, every time. And, much like with GG, just when you think it's going to get weird or yucky, everything goes sideways and you feel safe again.
Like okay, Michelle is this hilarious, awkward Vegas showgirl who trained as a ballerina but took a wrong turn somewhere and has become fully sick of her life. So she's got this stalker, Alan Ruck, who is always coming into town and bringing her presents and telling her how awesome she is and filling her house up with sunflowers and other semi-awful Nice Guy Stalker things like that. And on the very worst day of her life, he manages to get her drunk enough for a Vegas wedding, and she wakes up about a block from their new house with only the clothes on her back. Sounds like a nightmare scenario, right? Like something Lars von Trier would write. But wait.
So his mom, Fanny, throws a huge village party to "welcome" her to the family and/or shame her into abandoning this idea, and in the process of dealing with this situation Michelle comes to meet many of the insane people that live in the town: There's Truly, who is a goat-voiced young lady very much in love with Hubbell -- Did I mention his name is "Hubbell"? Yeah, as in Redford -- and in addition to being the stalker of a stalker, she's a talented seamstress. She has a familiar lady that works with her who hates Michelle on her behalf. And then at the studio, there are four young ladies that Michelle will be mainly dealing with: The dumb/smart blond, a girl who seems intense but I don't know what her deal is, the very mean Sasha, and the goofy puppy that everybody keeps kicking, whose name is Boo. They are all pretty cool.
In the middle of the party, Hubbell and Michelle sneak off for a pretty wonderfully transparent conversation about how she's not in love with him, she is possibly too damaged to love even the stalker that kidnapped her, and he explains that her love or lack thereof is not really relevant because he just wants to make her happy. And they do it. All of which is questionable, I admit, but wait for the punchline because it is a motherfucker.
So Fanny throws a fit about them fucking during their wedding reception, and Hubbell makes a big point of how he loves Michelle and they need to be nice to her and accept her in this sleepy seaside town of Paradise (yep), and then Michelle runs off to her cute scene with the four girls, where three of them of course fall in love with her, and which of course Fanny secretly witnesses, which causes her to reevaluate Michelle a little bit.
Mom drags Michelle off to a bar, where they have another conversation about how Michelle doesn't even love Hubbell, and basically he tricked her into getting married, but that -- since she's basically a wild animal who has taken the shape of a girl and thus has nowhere else to be -- they might as well get to know each other. This takes the form, since they are both gifted dancers, of dance.
And just when you're thinking, "What a neat twist, that this pilot ends with these two women bonding over this man in their lives and this mutual obsession with dance, and what a beautiful sort of metaphor to have them dance with each other, like, negotiating this relationship without even having him here, because he loves both of them and doesn't need to be around for this part," that's when Truly shows up. Crying, because Hubbell's just been killed.
The song the showgirls are dancing to goes, "Any city, near or far/ Feels twice as good as where you are/ When you're sick of the status quo..." It must suck when your work is a song that reminds you that you're not happy. Like I always felt so bad for Sheryl Crow, that one day she'd have to stand on stage singing about how all she wants to do is have some fun, and it wouldn't be true. At some point she was going to be faking her desire to have some fun; she was going to want other things. I cannot imagine what that is like.
There's two lines of chorus girls, I'm not sure about the distinction between them, but apparently it's a big deal. The first group, we're told, have been dancing their asses off for two hours, and then the separate group comes out five minutes from the end to flash their boobs. It would seem the first group is more stringently trained, but it seems -- to the uninitiated, at least, perhaps -- a matter less of type than degree. Nobody's really wearing a lot on that stage, in any case.
Michelle, of the former group: "That's all they do, twice a show! Walk out and stand there. And they get paid more."
(Something that sounds like feminism but isn't really feminism about how young girls are learning a good lesson from some showgirls but a bad lesson from other showgirls.)
Michelle: "It's not even about the face, half of 'em aren't even pretty. Mara over there looks like Muammar Gaddafi, but no one cares. She still gets paid more."
So what we've learned so far is that Michelle is a bitch. I guess when you're sick of the status quo that can happen. But I can't imagine Sheryl Crow saying something like that.
Afterwards, they talk about boob jobs. On ABC Family, just talking about buying tits. It would seem, Michelle reports, that each breast costs five to seven thousand dollars. Again, there's something with the cadence of feminism that is really just a conversation about fake tits: "If anything in the world should be sold as a pair, it should be boobs!"
But at least Mara is brave enough to call Michelle out on the awful thing she just said, which is pretty satisfying. So far Michelle is not really strutting her Lorelei charm, is she?
Her showgirl friend asks where she wants to get drunk tonight, and when Michelle turns her down she's like, "But we always get drunk on Tuesday!" Michelle, it turns out, has an audition for Chicago in the morning. Everybody's excited for her -- except, presumably, ugly old Mara -- and they talk about how Michelle's friend Jimmy Hewson got her the big break. You can already kind of tell it's not going to go well, but everybody's talking so fast and so much there's not really time to process what's going to happen next because of all that is already happening.